MARSH ACCELERATES PROCESS FOR ELECTRONIC PAYMENTS

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here has cut electronic payments processing time in half with a system that will serve as a launching pad for an array of new point-of-sale initiatives.Marsh's 87 stores are now transmitting credit and debit transactions directly to authorization networks, rather than through a third-party processor, said Don Friddle, manager of corporate cash resources."It's now

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marsh Supermarkets here has cut electronic payments processing time in half with a system that will serve as a launching pad for an array of new point-of-sale initiatives.

Marsh's 87 stores are now transmitting credit and debit transactions directly to authorization networks, rather than through a third-party processor, said Don Friddle, manager of corporate cash resources.

"It's now a little quicker," he said. "Before, we were running [authorizations] from seven to 15 seconds, and now we're running from four to eight seconds."

In-house processing will also enable the retailer to expand its acceptance of electronic payments and enhance check authorization. "This is going to give us some new opportunities," he said.

The retailer had previously relied on its bank to provide a switch for debit and credit transactions. But over the past few months, all electronic transactions have been routed by the corporate headquarters.

Currently, debit and credit transaction data flows from the point-of-sale to the corporate office and switches out to an authorization network. "Before, the transaction came through here, we switched it to a bank, they switched it to the network, and so on," he said.

Marsh's networking software was provided by Diebold, Canton, Ohio.

Handling electronic transactions gives Marsh access to new levels of retail information, Friddle said. The retailer can track how each branded card performed each day, how frequently it was used on a store-to-store basis. "Before we could only tell that it was a charge card being used," he added.

The next applications enhancement will be the introduction of a positive check approval system,

which is currently under development. "As soon as the software is done, we'll do some testing," Friddle said. "Hopefully, it's not too far in the future."

Currently, Marsh has a negative check file in each store to track bad check offenders. The upgraded system would send all check information to the corporate office, where more thorough searches could be conducted. "We could see if the customer had cashed several checks that day already," he said.

The retailer also plans to replace stand-alone card readers with an integrated cash register.

"That will make it easier for our clerks," Friddle said. "Right now with the stand-alone, you have to tender the amount, but if you integrate the system it automatically tenders it for you."